Monday, April 28, 2008

Certain Girls - Jennifer Weiner

Certain Girls is the long awaited sequel to "Good in Bed", featuring Cannie Shapiro. When we last saw Cannie she had found happiness after dumping her boyfriend Bruce. Cannie is a writer, but had enough of Bruce when he wrote an article on loving big women. Bruce is also the father of her daughter Joy.

Cannie wrote a novel "Big Girls Don't Cry" fictionalizing her life (and venting her anger) that became a best seller. Since then she has married Dr. Peter Krushelevansky, writes science fiction novels under a pseudonym and dotes on her daughter. Joy is a young woman now, preparing for her bat mitzvah. She ends up reading her mother's bestseller and realizes that it is a thinly veiled autobiography. Joy is horrified as she discovers her mother has not been entirely truthful with her.

What follows is a truly poignant story of mother and daughters, of love, struggle, triumph and family. You can't help but falling in love with Cannie and her family.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Shatter - Michael Robotham

Looking for a non stop psychological thriller? Then you've got to read Shatter by Michael Robotham. Robotham is fast becoming one of my favourite suspense authors.

A woman wearing only red high heels is teetering on the edge of a bridge. The police ask Professor Joe O'Loughlin, a clinical psychologist, to try and help talk the woman down. Joe has retired from private practice as he has developed Parkinson's disease. Joe goes to the scene and finds the woman on a mobile phone. She won't engage in conversation with Joe, but is telling the person on the other end of the phone that she's 'done everything they asked, no no, please......' Then she jumps and is killed instantly.

Who and what could have convinced someone to end their life in this fashion? Joe is asked by the police to help with the case. His personal life is in a bit of upheaval and taking on this case does not help.

Interspersed between chapters are the chilling thoughts and actions of the killer. He strikes again and yet another woman kills herself while on the phone.

This is a real tightwire of a novel. You'll find yourself reading 'just one more chapter' before turning off the light. Robotham's backlist is worth checking out as well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Incomplete Revenge - Jacqueline Winspear

I read the first of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series a few years ago. Although I enjoyed it, I didn't seek out the subsequent novels.

When my local library received the latest in the this series - An Incomplete Revenge - in audio format, I decided to borrow it to listen in the car. I'm quite glad I did as it made such a difference to listen to it. The characters came alive. The reader had a wonderful English accent that set the tone and location for this book.

Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist and investigator. All the novels take place in England in the late 1920's. Maisie is asked to investigate a small village for a company hoping to purchase the local brick works. They are concerned about a series of fires and small thefts that have been occurring.

It is hop picking season in the village, so her assistant Billy and his family are also in the village to work, as are a band of gypsies. The villagers do not report the fires and just gloss over them. They are very reticent about some of the history of the village and do not like the gypsies. With patient questioning Maisie unravels the mysteries surrounding this tiny enclave.

The descriptions of society at this time are fascinating. If you're looking for a good cozy mystery, this might be for you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Island of Lost Girls - Jennifer McMahon

Harper Collins Canada releases Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon April 22. This is McMahon's second novel, but the first I've read. And what a good read it was.

Rhonda Farr pulls into her local Mini Mart for gas before a job interview. She is struck speechless by the sight of a giant bunny rabbit coaxing a young girl out of her car and into the rabbit's car. It happens in the blink of an eye and as they drive away, Rhonda realizes that she has just witnessed an abduction and is horrified that she did nothing to stop it.

The little town is galvanized into action. A small command post is set up by Pat, the owner of the Mini Mart. We get to know Rhonda and her childhood friends, Lizzy and Peter. Their families were inseparable as children. The present day story is just as much about the hunt for missing Ernestine as it is about the relationships and lives of the now grown children.

The story flips from present to past, about 15 years ago. The childhood days of Lizzy, Peter and Rhonda are exposed in alternate chapters. Although their childhood appeared idyllic, there were unsettling undercurrents.

Most chilling are the brief, disturbing thoughts from the rabbit.

Suspicion seems to fall upon Peter and Rhonda is determined to find the real culprit as she believes it cannot be Peter. The more she digs, the more the past seems to be catching up with her.

McMahon's characters are well written and real, crackling with believable emotion. The reference to rabbits could have gone overboard, but doesn't. McMahon handles the flashback stories well, capturing the feelings and sentiments of children.

Island of Lost Girls is a tense thriller, but also a fascinating look at how the past affects the present. McMahon's mystery is straight from today's headlines.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Coming Soon

Well I'm still not feeling good and have abandoned reading for a bit. I admit it - I've been watching movies, but I thought I would share a good link with you. I always want to know what's coming in the world of books and Fantastic Fiction does just that. Okay that's it for today folks!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Compulsion - Jonathan Kellerman

Okay I am sick, like really, really don't want to move sick. So I spent all weekend on the couch, armed with Kleenex, fluids, antibiotics and thank goodness - a really good book. (When my eyes would work)

Jonathan Kellerman's latest novel in the Alex Delaware series is called Compulsion. Delaware is a psychologist who consults with friend Milo Sturgis of the LAPD. This latest case begins with a stolen luxury car that is recovered with a small amount of what may be human blood. It's not a big deal until a murder is perpetrated in broad daylight with another stolen luxury car. Looking into crimes using stolen luxury cars sets Milo and Alex on the right track, hunting a killer who murders on a whim.

The characters are well written and are like old friends from past novels. The plot is tight and the action exciting. My only criticism would be that things get wrapped up a little too neatly in the last few pages. Sorry for the short review but the couch is calling. But check out this series. Kellerman's wife, Fay Kellerman also writes a great series that I will review later this month. His son Jesse Kellerman is also and up and coming author - I'll be reviewing his new on later this spring.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Visiting Life - Bridget Kinsella

I picked this one up based on the subtitle's promise - "Women Doing Time on the Outside".
From the flyleaf - " Why in the world would anyone get involved with a prison inmate?"
Bridget Kinsella is a highly educated woman, an editor at Publishers Weekly. While trying to sort her own life and future out after a disastrous and childless marriage, Kinsella decides to try her hand as a publishing agent. A manuscript from a prison writing class ends up in her hands. She is struck by the writing and on a whim decides to begin a correspondence with the inmate, Rory Mehan. As their relationship progresses (Kinsella is now visiting regularly) the book descends into a self serving missive. I was quite interested in the interviews she did with a few women who are actually living this life, not visiting it for short time as is Kinsella. I wish she had expounded more on their experiences. This is a slim book and didn't take too long to finish. I did read it all, although I found myself skimming past the overly described self discovery passages. I found it difficult to actually believe/feel the connections and healing that she claimed from this relationship.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Killer Year - Edited by Lee Child

Killer Year edited by Lee Child, with an afterword by Laura Lippman is a collection of short stories by new and upcoming young authors. Their specialty is crime fiction. This collection is interesting in that a number of established authors have mentored these new writers. The mentors are all members of the International Thriller Writers organization. Their website is a great place to get updates on new books in this genre. I like anthologies - you always can find five minutes for a quick story!

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Sealed Letter - Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue's latest historical novel "The Sealed Letter" has just been released by Harper Collins Canada.

I first discovered Donoghue back in 2000 when I read one of her best selling novels, Slammerkin. I was struck then by the richness of her characters, so well written that the reader develops strong emotions towards them. Most impressive however is Donoghue's historical research. The fabric, mores, culture and so much more of Victorian England are brilliantly and accurately portrayed.

So is the case with The Sealed Letter. As in previous novels, the story is based upon actual historical facts and persons. We meet 'Fido" Faithfull, a liberal thinking spinster who runs her own printing press espousing her 'Cause'- Women's Rights. She meets up with an old friend Helen Codrington, who detests her older husband Admiral Codrington, and the restrictions society puts upon 'correct' female behaviour. Fido is drawn into Helen's world, but is naive and trusting. She offers true friendship, but due to Helen's machinations, is instead thrust unwillingly into the public eye in Helen's very messy divorce. This divorce case takes place in 1864, but believe it or not features a stained dress (sound familiar?), accusations of rape and a mysterious sealed letter that could decide the case.

Donoghue captures the language, the emotions and the time period eloquently. The Sealed Letter is the third of a loose trilogy exploring Victorian society and life through the eyes of the different classes. Slammerkin explores the poor, Life Mask the very rich and The Sealed Letter the middle class. All are extremely enjoyable reads.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Charly's Web - Joy Fielding

There are legions of Joy Fielding fans. Her novels make best selling lists and I'm sure Charley's Web will be no exception.

Fielding's protagonists are usually female. There is generally some sort of family and/or personal dysfunction going on. Add in a suspenseful situation that somehow solves itself and most of the problems by the end of the novel.

Charley's Web is no exception. Charley (Charlotte) and her sisters are named for the Bronte sisters as well as a 'cute' play on the children's book Charlotte's Web. Their family relationships are in the pits. A convicted female murderer asks Charley to write her story. Charley agrees and soon after she receives death threats against her children. Hmm - connected? Some twists and turns with some romance thrown in and abracadabra, Charley 'grows up' and everything is hunky dory.

I felt the characters were caricatures, the plot contrived and unbelievable.

Okay I did finish it. Lots of readers will. It's not a bad book, just not for me thanks. If you like Iris Johansen or Sandra Brown, you'll like it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy April Fool's Day

What are the origins of April Fool's Day anyway? This is a pretty fun link - the top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes ever. Here's a whole website dedicated to April Fool's Day! How about the New York April Fool's Day Parade? Beware!